Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them

Which actor plays you in Danny Boyle’s forthcoming drama miniseries Pistol?

“Christian Lees.”


“Do I win anything?! I had a coffee and a chat with him and met his mum and dad as well. He’s got a musical pedigree because his parents were in a cabaret band on the QE2. I’m waiting to see what it’s [Pistol] like. I chatted to Danny Boyle and went down to one filming session and met the cast. Originally there was another guy meant to play me, but he left to join Game of Thrones and [Christian Lees] took over who’s really good and a musician – he portrayed the young Jerry Lee Lewis in the Sun Records biopic series, where he actually played the keyboards. He sent me a link of him playing at the wrap party, where he’s even putting his feet on the piano like Jerry Lee did. Danny Boyle’s a cool talent, so we’ll see what happens.”

It’s split the Sex Pistols, with frontman John Lydon calling the TV series “the most disrespectful shit”, and an ongoing court case over whether the music can be used…

“I don’t want to get involved in all that!”

Who once paid between £6,000 – £12,000 (according to differing reports) to review Sex Pistols live for NME?

Alan McGee.”

CORRECT. After NME editors refused to let the Creation Records supremo review Sex Pistols’ 1996 Shepherds Bush Empire gig, he bought a full-page advert in the magazine to print it. In his glowing paean, McGee enthuses that he stood with Noel Gallagher who told him the Sex Pistols are “better than us”, and concludes by saying: “Britpop? More like Shitpop. You’re welcome to your mediocrity. The band are our alternative Royal Family.”

“I think NME should have let him write the review! I thought it was even-handed and well-written, but then I normally love people who think we’re great!”

You released your debut solo album, ‘Who’s He Think He Is When He’s At Home’, on Creation in 1996. What was that period like?

“It was weird, because I’d been working on the solo album and bumped into Alan McGee in 1995 who wanted to put it out. It wasn’t released until 1996 and by that time, we’d decided to reform the Sex Pistols out of the blue, so they overlapped and people thought I was trying to cash in. But I wanted it to stand on its own. It got a little bit lost in the end. I worked with some great musicians. In fact, I introduced 3 Colours Red’s Chris McCormack [who plays guitar on Matlock’s record] to Alan McGee, who signed his band.”

Who introduced Sex Pistols onstage at your mammoth 1996 Finsbury Park reunion gig?

“It was Stuart Pearce and the England manager, Gareth Southgate.”

CORRECT. The day after England beat Spain on penalties at Euro ’96.

“I don’t know how it happened. I thought it was something to do with [Sex Pistols drummer] Paul Cook, but phoned him recently and he’s no idea how it came about either. But I certainly wasn’t complaining about having a future England manager introduce us – it was good. I’m a Queens Park Rangers fan myself.”


You collaborated on Iggy Pop’s 1980 solo album ‘Soldier’. For what reason was some of the lead guitar stripped off it?

“Some lead guitar was stripped off it because it was by Steve New [of ’70s London new wavers Rich Kids, founded by Matlock post-Pistols] who ended up punching David Bowie down the stairs.”


“Over an argument over about a girlfriend [New accused Bowie of hitting on her] and the lack of cigarettes in the middle of the countryside at 4am! That’s why I stopped playing with Iggy because not only did he mix out Steve’s bits, Steve had played the hooks for the songs I’d written. But I really enjoyed playing with Iggy and would have liked to have done more with him, but there was a principle at stake.

“My favourite memory of Iggy was touring with him in 1979 and headlining the Palladium in New York – my first time in the city. It was Halloween and the whole audience dressed in costumes. We were supported by The Cramps and, backstage, Debbie Harry was dressed as a witch and gave me a kiss on the cheek.”

Talking of Bowie – didn’t Sex Pistols’ once steal his microphones?

“Well, Steve Jones [Pistols’ guitarist] ‘re-appropriated’ them, yeah. Bowie pulled me up on that and I found myself saying: ‘David, you know how it goes: the bitter comes out better on a stolen guitar’ [lyrics from Bowie’s 1971 song ‘Hang On to Yourself’]. He couldn’t really say anything! He took it in good sport.”


Name the three bonus tracks on the CD reissue of Rich Kids’ 1978 album ‘Ghosts of Princes in Towers’? 

“’Only Arsenic’? ‘Here Come the Nice?’ Three?  I’m going to let my score down here… Wait, is it ‘Empty Words’?”


“Wow, there you go! I was trying to do something different at that time. It would have been easy to try and do a second-division Sex Pistols and find my own Johnny Rotten but I didn’t want to do that. I deliberately got [future Ultravox frontman and Band Aid ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ writer] Midge Ure in as singer because he known them as a teenybopper idol from the band Slick, which I thought would put the cat amongst the pigeons. We got involved with working with [rock god and famous Bowie sideman] Mick Ronson as producer.

“One of the best things I’ve done in my entire life was when Mick was ill [he died of liver cancer in 1993], we rallied around and went to Walthamstow dog racing track. How long does it take a greyhound to run around a course? Not very long at all! Well, we were placing bets and the race started and Mick started running as well. He said: “The dog on the outside looks good, I’m going to try and back him!.” And even though he wasn’t well, he was trying to outrun the greyhound!”

Which two artists covered Sex Pistols’ ‘Pretty Vacant’ and “Anarchy in the U.K.” live for their lockdown Sunday Lunch series?

“Right, well, I haven’t heard it but somebody sent it to me and it’s Toyah [Willcox] and her husband who plays on ‘Heroes’? The bloke from King Crimson? Robert Fripp!”

CORRECT. Sex Pistols influenced culture in countless ways. Any references that have meant a lot to you?

“When I played in Poland, the controller of the Polish equivalent of the BBC offered me a cigar and said: ‘You probably don’t realise this but when we were still under Communist rule, your music got everybody through’. Somebody also gave me piece of card with a picture of a street in Warsaw and when you moved it with the light – the cover of the postcard – which had a hole in the middle, was a see-through vinyl of one of our singles which is how they’d send illicit music. I was just in a rock’n’roll band that stirred things up a bit, but people put all these things on your shoulders.”

In 2016, who set fire to a $5m worth of Sex Pistols memorabilia?

“Joe Corré.”

CORRECT. The son of Vivienne Westwood and the late Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren was protesting against music becoming a “marketing tool” on the 40th anniversary of ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’

“He asked me to go and watch but I didn’t want to. I told him to his face that I thought it was all a bit dopey. But I like Joe. When I worked in Malcolm McLaren’s shop [Sex] before the Sex Pistols, I used to take Joe and his brother to the cinema on Saturday afternoon in Victoria Station to watch cartoons – until we realised it wasn’t a place to take young kids because there was loads of blokes in dirty mackintoshes.”

Legendary NME hack Nick Kent recently compared Malcolm McLaren to former American president Donald Trump, claiming he was interested in the idea of “riots, of police, of just setting up some kind of chaos and anarchy”, and he painted you as the the one who would question: “‘Yeah, Malcolm but what about the consequences?’ He didn’t even recognise there would be consequences to his actions – and neither did Trump.”…

“That’s very astute and he’s got a point. Malcom would call himself an agent provocateur, and I guess he was. Initially, we all had a very symbiotic relationship and I don’t think anybody would have ever heard of the Sex Pistols if it wasn’t for Malcolm, but equally, I don’t think anybody would have heard of Malcolm if it wasn’t for us. He had the ideas; we had the content. And I don’t think he really understood what he had on his hands. He convinced himself that we weren’t much good and were just a louder version of the Bay City Rollers, which was how he was trying to pitch us.”


When Sex Pistols auditioned for a second guitarist, who did you specify that applicants had to be “not worse-looking” than?

Johnny Thunders.

CORRECT. The New York Dolls and Heartbreakers guitarist.

“It was to wheedle out the wheat from the chaff because not many people in England knew who he was.”

Johnny Thunders and fellow New York Doll Sylvain Sylvain were both allegedly approached by Malcolm McLaren to become Sex Pistols’ frontmen. Have you ever thought about an alternative reality where one of them got the job instead of John Lydon?

“No, I’ve never thought about it and we never had any money to fly anybody over from America to try them out. Malcolm met Sylvain at a used-clothing convention, because they both had clothing businesses, which is how they got to hanging out and Malcolm asked him to front the Sex Pistols. When I toured with Sylvain, he was very proud that he had sold a pair of dungarees to Janis Joplin!”

Sex Pistols sang ‘God Save the Queen’. But which two Royals allegedly had Sex Pistols posters on their walls?

“I don’t know their names, but it was supposed to be the sons. Not Andrew, but William and the red-headed one? Harry?”

CORRECT. According to your 1990 autobiography, I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol, you have it on good authority they were fans.

“I can’t divulge my sources, but I know a Royal Correspondent who walked past their bedroom and saw poster on their wall. I don’t know if it’s true, but it would be a weird thing to make up!” (Sings to the tune of Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save the Queen’) ‘God save our nan!’”

For a clean-sweep….

Steve Jones performs on a cover of Anarchy in the U.K by which band that gets half of the lyrics wrong because their frontman couldn’t understand John Lydon’s accent?


CORRECT. For example, the lyric “another council tenancy” is changed to “and other cunt-like tendencies”. ..

“I saw them at Donnington and before Sex Pistols reformed, there was more people singing along to the wrong words than with all the gigs I’d done with the band the first time around put together! I didn’t stay until the end because it was full of people who looked like tractor mechanics peeing in bottles and slinging ‘em”!”

Congratulations! You’re the first musician to score 10/10 since Faris Badwan from The Horrors in 2011! What do you have coming up?

“I’ve made a charity record called Kindred Spirit featuring a bunch of people playing on a cover of ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams, including [Blondie drummer] Clem Burke, Earl Slick and Marcella Detroit. I’ve made a new record of my own which is going to surprise a lot of people. Earl Slick and Clem Burke’s on it, as well as  Tomoyasu Hotei, who’s like the Japanese Jack Black and wrote the Kill Bill theme.”

The verdict: 10/10!

“I like an accolade! 10 out of 10 ain’t bad. I was worried you were going to ask me about world capitals or something like that!”

Glen Matlock performs with Tony Hadley, Jools Holland, Marcella Detroit, Clem Burke, Earl Slick, Steve Norman and more on the Kindred Spirit single ‘Angels’, available now in memory of record producer Steve Brown who lost his life to COVID earlier this year, and in support of the charity ‘Angels of the Nation’, which offers support to the grieving families of those front line workers who died during the pandemic.